The fact of the matter is that the pandemic has caused many of us to re-evaluate what’s important in our lives. Staying home with our families, observing everyday activities with a fresh eye brings a new appreciation of the simple pleasures of life.
What brings this into sharp focus for me are my afternoon rambles in the wood near our house. For the past few months, I’ve been walking more, both to help lose weight, and to provide contemplative time. I see some folks jogging or walking with ear buds, but to me that closes out an important component of the activity itself: the sounds.
Opening your ears to the bird song, and the angry chip-chip-chip of the squirrels who feel you’ve invade their turf is integral to the forest experience. I feel blessed that in 100 steps I can be off the street and on a grassy path through a forest preserve. Oakland University has kept these paths mowed and cleared of brush for as long as I’ve lived in the neighborhood — thirty or more years. Listening to the wind rustle the cottonwood leaves high above my head grounds me. Watching the wind create ripples in Miller Pond from the high knoll above it always brings a sense of calm to my day.
I regret it when I don’t find the time to walk. In spring, watching the buds slowly form as the sun slowly warm the ground makes me aware of the cycle of life. We are not alone. The earth goes about her business calmly, without rancor, and without paying much mind to the troubles and angst we humans bring to our existence. Suddenly, the trees are all in leaf, providing shady comfort in the tunnels beneath their branches. Summer brings with it hotter days, and chitter of small insects. The forest is never quiet.
Today, the storms of the past two days have passed, leaving beautiful cloud formations in their wake. Is that a dolphin? There’s an elephant and her calf! And more than a pair of dutchman’s britches, as the blue slowly takes over the sky.
Take time to recognize what gifts nature can bring to you in your daily routine. If there’s no time for a walk, perhaps five minutes spent with coffee looking out the kitchen window will bring a herd of deer into our backyard, foraging for unprotected hostas in our garden. We spray the plants with deer repellent often, but the deer usually win in the end. I don’t really mind — having the deer and the squirrels about reminds me that I’m not alone in our forest.
I’ve taken to spending warm summer evenings relaxing in our courtyard, too. With a view to the street, it’s easy to extend a distant howdy to our neighbors as they take the air. People enjoy their walks, with and without the dog. I think sometimes it would be good to have a dog, but with art shows and constant travel, a dog would not get the attention it deserves.
Whatever makes you happy, do it now. Don’t wait for a better time, or the right time. Life is what is happening now… enjoy it while you can. Hug your family, talk to your friends. You never know what’s coming down.